REMEMBERING SOUTHEAST ALASKA RESIDENTS WHO DIED IN VIETNAM
10 area residents killed 50 years ago in conflict
By DAVE KIFFER
July 17, 2018
One local who went oversees and was killed almost exactly 50 years ago was William Arthur "Bill" Thompson (William Arthur "Bill" Thompson's photo: www.honorstates.org). Thompson was born in Ketchikan in April 1949. He enlisted in the army and began his service in Vietnam on January 18, 1968. He reached the rank of corporal and was in the light weapons infantry. He served with the 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade. Thompson died on July 12, 1968 in Pleiku Province, South Vietnam. The military record lists his death as "hostile died of wounds, misadventure, ground casualty." Thompson is buried in Bayview Cemetery.
According to a story in the July 15, 1968 Ketchikan Daily News, Thompson graduated from Ketchikan High School in 1967. He briefly went to Spain after graduation and then returned to New York City and enlisted in the Army. He trained at Fort Jackson and requested assignment to Vietnam. He had a brief furlough in Ketchikan before going to Vietnam in January of 1968. He volunteered for long range patroi missions outside of Pleiku and was wounded by shrapnel in March but was back on duty in April.
"He recently graduated from Recondo School in Nha Trang and returned to duty as the leader of a five man patrol," the Daily News reported. "He was wounded on July 10 along with three others of the patrol when a cache of Viet Cong grenades were detonated by enemy fire. He died of his wound on July 12."
"It was such a sad story about Bill died," Former Kayhi classmate Cathy Hook said recently. "He was in my class and went to Nam right after graduation. Very nice, smart, fun, a gentle and soft spoken guy."
Thompson was the second Ketchikan resident to die in Vietnam, following Arthur Joseph "Joey" Whitney.
Joey Whitney Jr (Arthur Joseph Whitney's photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in Nevada in November of 1946. He was drafted into the Army and enlisted in October of 1966. He reached the rank of Private First Class and his speciality was a "field wireman" according to Army records. He served with the 41st Artillery Group, 7th Battalion, 13th Artillery, B Battery. He was killed on May 5, 1967 in Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam from "hostile action...multiple fragmentation wounds." He was buried in Elko, Nevada, where his family moved after leaving Ketchikan.
According to a May 8, 1967 story in the Ketchikan Daily News, Whitney was a 1965 Kayhi graduate and was on leave from his Ketchikan Pulp Company job when he killed. He and his family - which managed the Yukon Bar - had lived in Ketchikan for about a decade. He was killed when his vehicle struck a land mine as he was returning from a short leave.
"(Joey) lived in our neighborhood on Main Street," Terry Carlin said recently. "He was a nice guy and I remember talking to him a few times even though he was a teenager and I was in grade school."
Bill Hollywood was drafted with Whitney and another Ketchikan man, Bill Urquhart. Urquhart went into the Marines and both Hollywood and Whitney were initially in the Army, although Hollywood eventually ended up serving in the Navy instead.
"Joey really liked games," Hollywood said recently. "We belonged to a chess club at Kayhi and many nights we had pinochle games around town. We would play at different friends houses. We would call KTKN night watch and request songs we wanted to hear while playing. He was a great friend and would drop everything to come help if you needed him. It was a great to grow up in Ketchikan, till we had to go to war."
Eight other Southeast residents died in Vietnam, according to U.S. military records.
Metlakatla resident Norman Franklin Ridley (Norman Franklin Ridley's photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in February of 1950. He enlisted in the Navy and served on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea with the 7th Fleet. Ridley died on January 8, 1969 in an "aircraft accident" on the carrier. He is buried in Ocean View Cemetery in Metlakatla.
Thorne Bay resident Charles Edward Brown (Charles Edward Brown's photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in 1942. He enlisted in the Army and began his sercice in July of 1967. He was a private first class in the infantry and service with the 1st Squadron, 17th Calvary Regiment, Troop D. He died on Dec. 6, 1967 in Bien Hoa Province. Army records list his death as "hostile, died while missing, ground casualty." Brown is buried in Cedar Lawn Memorial Park, Redmond, Washington.
Hydaburg resident Clinton Arthur Cook (Clinton Arthur Cook's photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in October of 1948. He enlisted in the Army , served in the infantry and reached the rank of Staff Sergeant. He served with 1st Platoon, D Company, 4th Battalion, 503rd P.I.R, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1 Calvary Division Airmobile. He died in Binh Dinh Province on April 28, 1970. Army records note that he "died of wounds, explosive device."
David Dee Brown Jr (David Dee Brown Jr 's photo: www.honorstates.org) of Wrangell was in October of 1949. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and began service in April of 1968. He was a rifleman with the rank of Private First Class and served with the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, C Company. He died during the famous battle at Khe Sanh, southwest of Hill 689 in Quant Tri Province on April 16, 1968 "through hostile action...explosive device."
Petersburg resident Donald Harry Kito (Donald Harry Kito's photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in March of 1942. He enlisted in the Marines and reached the rank of Lance Corporal. He served with the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, H.S. Company. He died on July 8, 1967 in Quang Tri Province "through hostile action...artillery rocket mortar." He is buried in Petersburg Memorial Cemetery.
Juneau resident Norman Lewis Lingley (Norman Lewis Lingley's photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in January of 1947. He was a resident of Douglas and was drafted into the Army and began his service in October of 1966. He was a private first class and was a field wireman. He served with the 97th Artillery Group, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery, B Battery. According to the Army records he died on Nov. 6, 1966 through "non hostile action." He is buried in the Craig Cemetery in Craig.
Juneau resident Charles F. Gamble Jr. (Charles F. Gamble Jr.'s photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in November, 1948. He was drafted in the US Army and began his service in Vietnam in May of 1969. He held the rank of Specialist four and was a heavy vehicle driver. He served with the 1st Logistical Command, 124 Transport Battalion, 64th Transportation Company. According to his Army records he died in an air crash in Kotum Province on Oct. 28, 1969. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Juneau.
Donald Walter Sperl of Juneau (Donald Walter Sperl 's photo: www.honorstates.org) was born in January of 1948. He was drafted and went to Vietnam in January of 1968. He was a corporal and a medical specialist. He served with the 4th Infantry Division, Medical Corps. He died on May 8, 1968 in Kontum Province. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.A half century ago, Alaskans were beginning to take notice of the Vietnam War, primarily because the number of local men and women serving in Southeast Asia was increasing and Alaskans were dying in the fight. A total of 58 Alaskans would die in Vietnam, more than twice the combined number of Alaskan combat deaths in World War II and Korea.
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